Cox Communications Prepares for a Difficult Court Battle Against the Major Labels In Virginia

Is Cox Communications about lose its upcoming court case — and handy DMCA defense — against the music industry in Virginia?

Cox hasn’t had a great time in Virginia.

At the US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, a federal judge essentially stripped the ISP of copyright immunities earlier this year.  Cox later received the order to pay BMG $25 million.

So, to take on major labels – Sony Music, EMI, Universal, and Warner Bros – the ISP tried a new strategy.  The company’s lawyers asked a judge to change the courtroom venue to its home district of Georgia.

Unfortunately, Liam O’Grady, the US District Court judge presiding over the case, disagreed.  He ordered the case to go to trial in Virginia.

Now, ahead of the upcoming trial, the federal judge has explained the reasoning for disagreeing with the ISP.

Simply put, the company didn’t provide a compelling enough reason to switch courtroom venues.

In an earlier case, O’Grady ruled against Cox, stating the ISP couldn’t rely on Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) safe harbor protections.  This would’ve granted the company protection from liability over users’ purported piracy.

Referring back to his earlier ruling, O’Grady said this is why Cox must go to trial in Virginia.

Although defendants claim this court’s ruling on the DMCA’s safe harbor provision will not be relevant to this case, this court’s prior ruling will at the very least touch on the issues presented here.

The major labels – led by Sony – have claimed Cox must answer for its users’ illegal downloads.  In its request to change the courtroom venue, the ISP blasted the labels.  They chose Eastern Virginia “solely because” O’Grady had previously ruled in favor of the music industry.

The major labels quickly responded, slamming the filing as “a ploy to avoid the efficiencies and substance of this court’s prior rulings in a virtually identical case.”

O’Grady admitted Cox made several good points in its request to move the case to Georgia.  Agreeing with the labels, however, the federal judge explained “judicial economy” ultimately influenced his ruling.

Defendants propose to transfer to the Northern District of Georgia, a court that has not had occasion to thoroughly examine this DMCA issue, and into the jurisdiction of the Eleventh Circuit, a court of appeals that likewise has not had the opportunity to examine this issue.